It’s going to happen. You’ve been brave and organized and submitted to the shows that you think will be perfect. You followed all of the directions in the prospectus to the letter. You dutifully researched the venue, past shows, even the jurors. You have the best possible images of your artwork and yes, you did send in your best work. Then the envelope or the email arrives that says, “sorry – better luck next time.” You don’t get in.
rejected from half of the shows entered
also received a “Best of Show” at a local quilt show
What does it mean? Why do you feel like a failure? I discussed the jury process and the many reasons work is rejected from shows in this post on the topic in case you missed it.
What being rejected does NOT mean is that YOU are a failure as an artist or as a person. If you go into a blue funk that keeps you from making your work, you need to examine why.
Failure can be a friend if you are willing to learn from it. That is easier said than done but if you can learn to see failure as one more step towards success your life will be easier – and happier. And you will be growing as a person and as an artist.
Here’s the thing. If you want to be a grown up as an artist you MUST allow your work to speak for itself. It’s like letting your children grown up, leave home, and be their own unique individuals without them being YOU any more. Remember that each and every viewer comes to your work with their own unique set of prescription glasses. They have unique experiences, memories, inclinations, and loves that color how they see the world and how they react to art.
Their reaction to your work is about THEM, it has nothing to do with you as a person, and often, absolutely nothing to do with your skill as an artist. Believe me, you don’t want to live in a world where everyone loves the exact same art. We would all be robots in an Orwellian nightmare of an existence.
Now let’s examine reasons why you might have been rejected that you can actually do something about.
First: are you entering venues appropriate for your work? A cutting edge and provocative piece might not be appropriate for a traditional quilt show and a traditional Baltimore Album isn’t going to make it in a Soho gallery.
Second: are you pinning all of your hopes on one piece? As a serious artist you want to be continually creating. You need to build up a body of work. (I’m preaching to myself here!) If you think this one piece is the best you ever have or ever will make then you have stopped progressing. Try to create enough work that you can have several pieces out there at the same time if entering shows is a path you wish to follow.
Third: take an objective look at both your photographs and your work. If you have someone whose opinion you trust, ask them for a critique. Use this as an opportunity to learn and to improve. The work might be fantastic and the photography impeccable. It still never hurts to find areas for improvement.
never juried into a show quilt but shown in several art galleries
Remember as well that the higher the quality of the show that you enter, the more likely it is that you will be rejected simply because of the number of applicants. Quilt National is what many of us Art Quilters call “our favorite charity.” It has an overwhelming number of entries compared to the number of Artworks that it can accept. It is also one of the most respected showcases of “the Quilt as Fine Art” that there is. A hardcover catalog is published every year and the show travels to respected venues. It is still on my list of “hope to get in before I die” shows so I continue to send in work and take my chances.
Here is a lovely blog post about entering shows by Elizabeth Barton. It includes a conversation with a juror about why some pieces were accepted in a nationally juried show. Well worth reading.
And here is a treat – Robbi Eklow’s wonderfully witty answer to rejection letters. READ IT! It will brighten your day.